WHY WE DO IT
- GUARJILA Companion Community Project (CCP)
- RIO ABAJO/LIMAY Hermanamiento Project
- IFCO/Pastors for Peace
- GUATEMALA – Current Issues
- HONDURAS – Case of Padre Guadalupe Carney
- VENEZUELA – Venezuela Solidarity & Hands Off Venezuela
- COLOMBIA – Support for Peace Communities
- EL SALVADOR – Current Issues
- NICARAGUA – Current Issues
“In the decades of the 1970-90’s, tens of thousands of U.S. citizens traveled to Central America. For many it was their first time outside the borders of the U.S. In a time marked by civil war and violence they went to see the reality of poverty and experience the resilient hope of the Central American people. What they saw and experienced left a permanent mark. Their vantage point on the world was radically altered….”
Like Grains of Wheat: A Spirituality of Solidarity
by Margaret Swedish and Marie Dennis (Orbis, 2004)
In St. Louis, the women and men who formed the Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America learned the meaning of solidarity through their accompaniment of refugees and exiles, human rights workers and legal advocates, and most importantly, the people we met in Central and Latin America.
We welcomed speakers from various countries who told their stories of struggle and oppression, we opened places of sanctuary for those who fled death squads and massacres, we risked arrest to draw attention to the injustices and we sent courageous people to work with Witness for Peace and Peace Brigades International.
This led us to realize that ACCOMPANIMENT was central to the work of IFCLA. It is a work of transformation in which…
- We really look honestly at our planet, our political structures, and our lives
- We recognize how unjust systems oppress our world
- We realize that we need to share resources more equitably
- We reverence all creation and seek creative ways to protect it
- We risk letting what we have learned change our lives
GUARJILA COMPANION COMMUNITY PROJECT (CCP)
In January of 1988, IFCLA made a covenant with the people of Guarjila, Chalatenango, El Salvador who had just returned from the Mesa Grande refugee camp in Honduras and who were courageously rebuilding their lives in the midst of war. We began by raising awareness about their precarious situation with our members of Congress and the people of the St. Louis region. We sent people to visit and challenge the army’s disregard of their status as a civilian community. We raised funds for land titles, for cows, for a roof for the school, for a water project, and for teacher salaries. Dr. Ann Manganaro, Sister of Loretto, went to live in Guarjila and opened a clinic which served the entire area. She trained health promoters, many of whom are health professionals today. Sadly, Ann died of cancer in June, 1993.
After the Peace Accords were signed in 1992 and the combatants returned to live with their families, more people from St. Louis were able to visit Guarjila. Two health promoters and a German doctor who worked with Ann came to visit St. Louis in the 90s.
In 1998, students from Ann’s high school began to visit Guarjila. This annual visit has deepened the bonds of friendship and expanded horizons for many young women. Each year we learn first hand the challenges which the community faces. It helps inform our work for justice in El Salvador.
In addition to visits, the CCP sells embroidery and hand work from the women’s collective and raises funds to supplement the stipends of the health workers at the clinic.
RIO ABAJO/LIMAY HERMANAMIENTO PROJECT
After Hurricane Mitch in October, 1998, IFCLA responded to the need of a community which was washed away by the hurricane. A delegation visited the people of Rio Abajo and agreed to help them rebuild their community. Delegations followed and today the community of Rio Abajo has housing, water, electricity, a corn mill, buildings for sewing and for pottery, and a community center.
In order for the project to proceed, Reyna Moreno was hired to be the project coordinator. She received training for community organizing and has led a campaign to get the road from Esteli to Limay paved. She has expanded her work from Rio Abajo to neighboring communities. After eight years, the IFCLA project has decided to end the funding of her position. Efforts will be made to continue a connection with the communities in the Limay Valley through potters, student volunteers and the New Roots Farm Collective.
IFCO/PASTORS FOR PEACE
IFCLA is the fiscal sponsor for the New Mayas Society which supports the Centro de Formacion Nuevos Mayas (The School for New Mayas), established in Xix, a small town in the state of Quiche, in northern Guatemala. IFCLA supports the efforts of local parishes with sister relationships: St. Joan of Arc Catholic parish has a long-standing relationship with the diocese of Coban; St Francis Xavier (College Church) has a relationship with La Natividad parish. The Arco Iris Sanctuary welcomed several families and individuals from Guatemala as did the sanctuary at the ASC community in Ruma, IL.
The Association for Justice and Reconciliation, an organization of 22 communities of survivors of the massacres of the 1980s, has launched legal cases against former dictators and military officers who were involved in the campaigns against the indigenous peoples . Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org and www.amnestyusa.org ) is actively supporting these efforts. AI has documented the recent murders of women in Guatemala.
IFCLA participates in the speaking tours sponsored by NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala). www.nisgua.org
After the coup d’etat in June, 2009, IFCLA joined the Honduras Solidarity Network and is active in the Congressional Working Group. Human Rights violations, land evictions, assassination of leaders and journalists need our continual attention. There is a newsletter dedicated to Honduras on the website as well as frequent updates on the situation.
In the past, the main focus of IFCLA’s accompaniment in Honduras has been related to the case of Fr. James Guadalupe Carney who was assassinated in 1983. His brother-in-law continues to testify before human rights tribunals and promotes Jim’s book, To Be A Revolutionary.
Sources for information on current issues:
The basic purpose of the Venezuela Solidarity Network is to increase communication among groups that oppose US intervention in Venezuela, support the right of the Venezuela people to self-determination, and support the Bolivarian revoluntion. The Venezuela Solidarity Network also seeks to enlist additional progressive groups into Venezuela solidarity work, and to facilitate our ability to unite in joint actions.
Hands Off Venezuela
We have tirelessly organised solidarity activities with Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution through public meetings, video screenings, raising the issue within the trade union movement in different countries, organising speaking tours, moving motions in Parliaments, and sending solidarity delegations to Venezuela.
The basic principles of the Campaign are:
- solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution
- opposition to imperialist intervention in Venezuela
- building direct links with the revolutionary and trade union movement in Venezuela
COLOMBIA – Support for Peace Communities
IFCLA has made a couple efforts to develop relationships in Colombia through delegations and participation in National Organizations. There have been campaigns to raise awareness about fumigation of farmland (and farmers) and to stop funding for the U.S. sponsored Plan Colombia.
ACCOMPANIMENT is about more than material aid, it leads us to join the struggles of our companions in Central America: see Country Updates on the website.
1. Millennium Challenge Corporation Longitudinal Highway across northern El Salvador. www.mcc.gov
2. Strip Mining – Canadian companies (Pacific Rim and Goldcorp) are using US subsidiaries (a benefit of CAFTA) to sue El Salvador for opposing their gold mining projects.
New Strategies, New Challenges: The Struggle to Halt Mining Continues
Comunidades dispuestas a expulsar empresas mineras
Conferencia Episcopal en contra de minería metálica
3. Anti-terrorism laws and security concerns due to narco-organized crime.
4. Environmental disasters from hurricanes, tropical storms and development projects.
1. Privatization of electricity and water.
One of the “hot issues” in all of Latin America is the privatization of water and electricity. This is becoming an insidious way of controlling the lives and livelihood of rural and urban populations.
Other sources of articles on water privatization:
Center for Global Development <www.cgdev.org> and
The Inter-American Dialogue <www.thedialogue.org>
Sourcewatch Privatization “Privatization, dubbed piratization by critics, refers to the sale of publicly owned assets to the private sector…”
2. A devastated environment and economy
Government announces plans preserve forests and water sources
The Ortega administration is making an effort, through programs and more bio- friendly policies, to reverse the effects of contamination to the principal water sources in the country as well as the deforestation that has taken place in a number of departments. The administration is attempting to regulate water usage and will be working on reforms for agricultural land use among other projects.
An estimated 70,000 hectares of forest are lost every year in Nicaragua due to “indiscriminate logging” by timber companies along the Pacific Coast where close to 80% of Nicaragua’s population is found. The Sandinista government plans to introduce more bio- friendly logging regulations as well as provide material resources and funding for community-based reforestation projects around river basins and water sources in the Pacific coastal regions.
In addition to the water bill and reforestation projects, the government considers it an immediate priority to look for ways to prevent the contamination of the more than 21 river basins and important lakes that provide Nicaragua with fresh water. In Managua alone there are 11 large industrial companies that do not have adequate treatment systems for what they dump directly into Lake Managua. This, along with poor garbage management and contamination from underground seepages from gas stations are urgent problems for which the administration promises to look for viable solutions.
Ortega administration kicks-off the “Zero Hunger” program
The “Zero Hunger Program,” which aims to reduce poverty in the rural areas over a five year period, was inaugurated by President Daniel Ortega and other members of his administration in the northern department of Jinotega. The program was designed to achieve the first objective of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, “to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce hunger to zero.”
“Zero Hunger” with its budget of US$150 million plans to deliver a US$2,000 bond or voucher to 75,000 rural families between 2007 and 2012. The voucher will consist of the delivery of a pregnant cow and a pregnant sow, five chickens and a rooster, seeds, fruit- bearing plants and plants for reforestation. The project’s short-term objective is to have each rural family capable of producing enough milk, meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables and cereals to cover its basic needs while its medium range objective is to establish local markets and export certain products.
The families that benefit from the project will be required to pay back 20 percent of the amount that they receive in order to create a rural fund that will guarantee the continuity of the program. NGOs and representatives from each community will be in charge of managing the project.